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Mainland Neotropics from Mexico to Argentina (Andrade and Baroni Urbani 1999). Costa Rica: common throughout the lowlands, both dry and wet forest habitats.
This is one of the most common species of Cephalotes. It is extremely generalized in its habitat preferences and can be found in the canopy of primary rainforest, in secondgrowth vegetation of all ages, in tropical dry forest, in scrubby roadside vegetation, and in mangroves. It appears to nest exclusively in dead stems; I have never found a nest in a live stem. I have seen nests in dead stems of all sizes, down to 3mm diameter. I sometimes find nests with no queen, which suggests that the species can be polydomous. When I do find queens, they are founding alone, or occur as the single queen in nests, suggesting monogyny.
For one nest I made a count of the entire contents. The nest was in a dead stem, outside dia. 5mm, inside dia. 3.5mm, 52cm long. There were 146 adult minors, 27 adult majors (majors and minors grade into each other to some extent), 16 callows, 57 pupae, 15 semipupae, and 30 larger larvae. The larvae were amber-colored; the semipupae were white.
Andrade, M. L. de, and C. Baroni Urbani. 1999. Diversity and adaptation in the ant genus Cephalotes, past and present (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde Serie B (Geologie und Palaontologie) 271:1-889.
Fabricius, J. C. 1804. Systema Piezatorum secundum ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonymis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus. Brunswick: C. Reichard, xiv + 15-439 + 30 pp.
Kempf, W. W. 1951. A taxonomic study on the ant tribe Cephalotini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Entomol. (Rio J.) 22:1-244.
Alto Paraguay, Amambay, Canindeyú, Central, Concepción, Cordillera, Ñeembucú, San Pedro (ALWC, IFML, INBP, LACM, MHNG). Literature records: Caaguazú, Central, Cordillera, “Paraguay” (s. loc.) (Forel, 1909a, de Andrade & Baroni-Urbani 1999).
Found most commonly in these habitats: 18 times found in tropical moist forest, 15 times found in 2º wet forest, 12 times found in lowland wet forest, 5 times found in rainforest edge, 8 times found in rainforest, 5 times found in mature wet forest, 7 times found in 2º lowland rainforest, 4 times found in tropical dry forest, 2 times found in mixed tropical/temperate mesic forest, 5 times found in tropical wet forest, ...
Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 38 times beating vegetation, 13 times on low vegetation, 12 times Malaise trap, 12 times ex sifted leaf litter, 8 times strays, 2 times in dead stick, 8 times nest in twig above ground, 6 times at bait, 2 times nest in dead stick, 1 times on ant acacia., 3 times nest in hollow twig, ...
Collected most commonly using these methods: 30 times search, 40 times Beating, 15 times Fogging, 11 times direct collection, 14 times Malaise, 8 times MiniWinkler, 3 times beating vegetation (3 hours), 6 times Baiting, 1 times hand collecting, 4 times beating low vegetation, 4 times MaxiWinkler, ...
Elevations: collected from 5 - 1067 meters, 263 meters average